Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Review: "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man"

I know the book is over a year old, but I finally bought a copy and read it in two evenings.

I'm a huge fan of Steve Harvey's morning show, particularly the Strawberry Letters. So I couldn't wait to read the book, thinking Steve would be just as funny and insightful in the book as he is on his show.

Although some parts of the book made me LOL and he did say a few enlightening things (which I'll discuss later), overall, I was a little underwhelmed and wished I hadn't paid full price for the hardcover book. :-P In ALALTLAM, Steve's goal is to shed light on how men really function and think, what motivates them.

As someone who grew up in post-feminist America, some of what he said seemed a little too traditional-gender-roley for me. Steve is from my parent's generation, who generally courted during the 70's. Women's lives have changed a lot over the past 40 years. He talks a lot about "real men" being providers, basically restating the idea that men are supposed to "take care of" women and their families. As other feminists have pointed out, the idea of "men taking care of women" can lead to misogynism and keeps women in a dependent, vulnerable role. SAHM's are no longer the norm. Moms and dads work now. In many ways, especially in such an uncertain economy, the idea of one parent staying at home and not working (by choice) is frankly dangerous. Steve's statement that most men don't mind being the sole provider might have been true for his generation. However, I wonder how many men my age would be 100% okay with mom staying at home full time while he works.

However, although it's true that women's roles are slowly changing, I think boys today are still raised to believe that they will need to be the "provider" and "protector" of their future family. In my line of work, I constantly see parents, particularly parents of African-American boys, telling their boys to "man up," "stop crying like a little girl." Boys are still being socialized to hold in their feelings (which Steve mentions in his book, though he claims it's wired into men's DNA) and be "men." So when he talks about men not being ready for a long term relationship until they have defined "who they are, what they do, and how much money they make," I think that still holds true. I see it amongst my single male friends in their twenties. I've had male friends who were in long term relationships (relationships without sex, by the way), but didn't marry the girl. I wondered why, and reading Steve's book help me see a possible reason why.

He did have some useful tips too, such as 5 questions every woman should ask a man, particularly before she sleeps with him. He also says women should wait "90 days" before they have sex with a guy, to give enough time to figure out if he's worth being intimate with. I have a couple friends who should definitely take that advice! They jump in bed with their guys very quickly. He also tells women to have standards and reminds us that we are really in charge in relationships. We define which way the relationship goes. When a man is really "into" a woman, when he wants more than sex from her, he will follow her terms in a relationship.

So I guess it's not all so revolutionary or new, and definitely not as funny as the Strawberry Letters segment. However, I think it's worth a read if you can excuse his more traditional statements. After all, he's a product of his generation.

I just wouldn't pay $24 for it if I were you.

Shortest crush ever

Last Thursday, I went for some drinks with a few old friends from college. One young man who attended was “Eric.” He is a year older than me, and we were in a few student groups in college together. Therefore, we have many mutual friends and hung out (in groups, never one-on-one) regularly in college, but seldom see each other since he graduated. We exchange small talk at parties and when I used to take public transit, I ran into him on the train a few times. I also saw him at a protest that I passed while riding my bike. So we still run into each other, actually. :-P He’s very sweet, a bit introverted (which is a turn-on for me), very passionate about his political beliefs, but not self-righteous. His political activism is fueled by his religious convictions. We’re both practicing Catholics, FYI.

In college, I had no romantic interest in Eric. Although he is “in my league” in terms of looks (we’re both nerdy), I never found him particularly attractive on the outside. Plus, a friend of mine had the hots for him during freshman year, and I have this policy of not chasing after guys that my friends like. I hesitate to even do it eight years after she supposedly got over her crush on him. I say “supposedly” because I think she still likes him a little. What kind of friend am I if I pursue a guy who I know one of my best friends likes?

However, Thursday, I was in the mood for a little flirting. Sadly, I’m not particularly good at it. I was happy to see Eric, genuinely, platonically happy. But then it morphed into a more romantic interest. He appeals to me more now than he did in college, and in all honesty, I have toyed with the idea of us together. I sat next to him at the bar, but of course, didn’t talk much to him. A boisterous young man at the table held more of my attention. Bars are too loud for meaningful conversation as far as I’m concerned anyway. Also, in a group of about half a dozen, I become more of a listener and daydreamer. “Eve” had to bring me into her conversation.

So I missed my opportunity to flirt with Eric, but because he was attending a party after our bar outing that wasn’t too far, I offered to give him a ride. I was driving Eve home too, so what did an extra five minutes matter? The three of us exchanged small talk and a few jokes in the car. As he left, my goodbye was extended, and my voice jumped to a higher, more girly pitch. Eve caught my higher pitch and said, “You like Eric, don’t you?”

If it’s possible to blush on the inside, that’s exactly what I did. I’m a contradiction. I want to flirt, but don’t want anyone else to know that I’m flirting. :-P I was caught! I stumbled over my words and told Eve I have thought about it, but I was just playing, having a little fun. But that observation of hers started a whole weekend of me daydreaming, fantasizing and wondering, “What if?” I looked through old photo albums on facebook and on my bookshelf, trying to piece together a story, trying to see if there was ever any hint of something brewing between us. I hate when I obsess over a guy, so I made a deal with myself: “One weekend. I’ll give myself the whole weekend to daydream and fantasize to my heart’s content, that’s it.”

I’m happy to say that the crush that had been sizzling all weekend has fizzled. Although typing this blog entry has got me daydreaming a little again, I’m definitely not where I was this weekend. Plus, I had a bad week at work, and I think I needed a couple days of daydreaming about a boy. So I thank Eric for giving me a needed distraction. Although I certainly wouldn’t turn him down if he ever asked me on a date, I recognize that the likelihood of that is low to nil. We’ve known each other eight years and not once has he asked me even to get coffee with him. Clearly, he’s pegged me as a friend and has no romantic interest in me.

But that’s okay. It really is.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Partying: Catholic style

A new free magazine aimed at Catholic singles, Tobias, recently began distribution. As a single person who frequently feels invisible at family-centered Masses, I jumped on the opportunity to subscribe to a free magazine that focused on people like me. Some articles are uber-Catholic (i.e. an article that basically said the best sex is sex within marriage), but others have insight that is useful to all single Catholics, traditional and non-traditional.

One article this month, I suppose, was based on the assumption/stereotype that singles love to partay. It was called something like, "Catholics throw the best parties," and said how "Catholic" it is to throw big celebrations. Also, it mentioned that the Catholic church has built in days of celebration throughout the liturgical year and to have a boring party is to be very un-Catholic.

Although the author made some good points, one might argue that it was trying too hard to appeal to singles and perhaps missed the mark on what Catholic singles, particularly the ones who would read Tobias, actually care about. I don't know if the drunken, party-hard Catholics (or former Catholics) would pick up that magazine.

One point in that article I took issue with was when the author said weddings are supposed to be big. He used the wedding at Cana as an example. Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine. According to the authour, Jesus' first miracle was about keeping the party going and celebrating. Firstly, I question if Jesus' intent really was to keep everyone partying and drunk or if turning water into wine had more to do with the Eucharist and the sacrifice he would be making later. Also, the author used the example of a "typical Southern Baptist" wedding as being un-Christian. According to him, in Southern Baptist weddings, the ceremony lasts only 20 minutes and then everyone goes to the church hall to have non-alcoholic beverages. The author felt that was totally "yawn." OK, that wasn't the author's wording, but that was the connotation.

I never went to a Southern Baptist wedding, but actually, that wedding description sounded way more Christian than some of the other weddings, Catholic or not, that people throw. The wedding at Cana might have been a big deal where everyone in Cana came, sure (I mean, what else was there to do?). But that was 33 A.D. There was no multi-million (perhaps multi-billion) dollar wedding industry telling brides they need to spend tens of thousands of dollars for their wedding to be special, to be perfect. Brides didn't have to go multiple times to the bridal shop to have their wedding dress fitted. Banquet halls and DJs didn't have to be rented. Brides in 33 A.D. didn't spend hours agonizing over what color the centerpieces on their table should be, how high heels to wear, what year of wine to serve. Today, couples get so wrapped up in all that pomp and circumstance of weddings that the actual sacrament gets forgotten, not to mention corporations eating up a couple's hard-earned money.

I agree that some Christians need to learn to "party more." However, first and foremost, a wedding is about a couple coming together in God's name, asking the community to bless their union. Many couples today are opting for smaller, cheaper, more intimate affairs (heavily influenced by today's economy), trying to spend under $10,000 on their wedding. That already sounds like too much to me, but anyway. We are supposed to celebrate seasons of the Church and seasons of our lives, but not at the expense of the original message, the original intent of the celebration.